OGDEN — Stephen Henry sat with his laser gaze fixed on a motionless “Parisian showgirl,” trying to capture her image and essence in a quick charcoal drawing.
Henry moved the charcoal in lines and swirls across a clean white paper, pausing to smudge and blend his lines. Each time he moved his hands away, his sketch revealed a dramatic, new feature of the model before him.
“I like this a lot better than regular figure drawing,” said Henry, who attended Weber State University’s first sketch cabaret, an event that invited guests to pay $5 to draw actors in detailed costumes, some of which were historically inspired.
“I like that they’ve got clothes on,” said Henry, a Clinton resident and the art teacher at Ogden’s Two Rivers High School. “I’m not awkward with nudity, but this seems more practical.”
Judy Macner, of Ogden, sketches models weekly at $10 Saturday sessions hosted by the WSU art department.
“It’s a nice opportunity to draw costumes,” said Macner, her eyes locked on a toga-clad actor depicting a citizen of ancient Greece. “The challenge is in the detail, capturing just the details that tell the story.”
Weber State theater students came up with the idea of a sketch cabaret as a way to earn funds for the February trip to the Region Eight Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival competition.
“We’re taking a stage designer, a set designer, lights and props designers, three costume designers and, hopefully, a show — if we are lucky,” said Derek Williamson, 22, a WSU theater education student from Harrisville. “We also have several actors nominated for the Irene Ryan Award, and the festival is in Los Angeles this year, so it’s going to be expensive.”
Williamson said WSU design seminar students had talked about the sketch cabarets in Salt Lake City. WSU students decided to do a sketch cabaret with costume-shop clothing, and to move actors around three staging areas after a set number of minutes that ranged from 10 to 25.
“We wanted to put our own spin on it,” Williamson said.
“I especially liked the quick draws,” Macner said. “You can’t fixate. You have to keep working.”
Six actors alternated in 12 costumes.
“It was really interesting,” said Tanner Rampton, 19, a theater student from Ogden.
He appeared first in a toga and later as an 1800s gentleman with a black top hat.
“It’s different as an actor to be still and let someone else do the art. It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be,” Rampton said.
Ogden actress Alice Gittins, 24, agreed.
“It was fun,” she said, while changing from her Victorian blue dress to an ornate, Elizabethan-style gown.
“I was worried about just standing there and doing the same pose,” Gittins said. “In a way, it required more intensity than acting.”
Henry was disappointed but not surprised that none of his art students took him up on the offer of extra credit for attending. Macner declared the experience fabulous, and praised the “big energy” inspired by the actors, dramatic recorded music and the time deadlines.
“It was excellent,” Macner said.
Williamson said he considered the event, attended by 13 sketchers, a success.
“Our biggest fear was that no one would show up,” he said, with a laugh. “But sometimes you’ve got to put yourself out there and see what happens. I hope we can do another sketch cabaret next semester. Any money we can raise for the trip really helps.”